by Austin Hegmon
The year 2016 has been an extremely down year for hip-hop beef. So far, the feuds this year have either been high profile but unimportant (e.g. Kimye vs Taylor Swift) or extremely personal but lacking in star power and exposure (e.g. Theophilus London/A$AP Bari vs Ian Connor, Robb Bank$ vs Joey Fatts).
So when Ebro Darden, host of HOT97 radio show “Ebro in the Morning”, leaked that Drake told him that he was finally going to respond to the string of diss tracks Joe Budden has been throwing at him over the summer, the rap world collectively raised an eyebrow.
Shortly after, Ebro mentioned that Drake told him that if Eminem decided to come to his fellow Slaughterhouse members defense that he would “have something for Eminem too.”
Onlookers went from an eyebrow raise to their eyes popping out of their skulls.
Over the next day, the rap world went into DEFCON-2 to prepare for the seemingly imminent on-wax collision between the genre’s biggest draw in the commercial music market and one of its most well respected lyricists.
To reference one of my favorite movies, Spy Kids 3D: Game Over, this battle is parallel to Level 3. The best player, Juni Cortez (Drake), battles the strongest player, Arnold (Eminem), in a fight to the death. In the movie, Arnold dominates Juni in the fight; which is an outcome that most casual and die-hard hip-hop heads agreed would be replicated in Eminem vs. Drake.
To the general public, a battle between Drake and Eminem is essentially a baby seal against a NAVY Seal. Eminem is a rapper who had a movie made about him being a fantastic battle rapper and Drake is a rapper who played a character in a wheelchair on TV.
Even Drake seemed shook of the prospect of a beef with Eminem, categorically denying all of his alleged statements (Ebro then claimed to have made the quotes up) and then going after HOT97 and Funkmaster Flex.
However, Drake shouldn’t be shook. There is a legitimate case to be made that Drake could win a beef with Eminem and if the two were to air out their differences on wax, the end result might end up a lot close than what people are thinking.
I need to make a couple things perfectly clear. Drake probably wouldn’t beat Eminem by just out-rapping him. Their abilities to write hard hitting bars and wordplay are probably close to even at this point in both their careers (neither are particularly outstanding), but Eminem’s rapid fire machine gun style is way more optimal for a rap beef than Drake’s monotone delivery and relatively basic bar structure.
Drake also won’t win this battle by trying to out-macho Eminem. It’s just not going to happen. I think Drake could probably pollinate a flower with his breath.
Drake does have a couple advantages over Eminem that he can use however. Drake is essentially bulletproof. Over the last couple of years Drake has been smacked by Puffy, been peed on by T.I.’s friend (allegedly), had several songs exposed as unoriginal, and dropped one of the corniest lines in recent memory (Chaining Tatum) and absolutely nobody seems to care about any of it.
Drake’s never held a false tough guy image and it really helps him when he’s under attack. Shots about Drake being soft and corny have had minimal effect because Drake openly embraces his character flaws, something very few rap stars have ever had the ability to do.
Drake’s biggest advantage over Eminem (and also the biggest advantage overall in this hypothetical beef) is the fact that this beef would take place in 2016 and not 2001.
Times and tastes in rap have changed, and Eminem’s bread and butter battle tactics of beating people with drawn out, over-the-line insults and references haven’t been particularly effective and certainly haven’t gotten him national attention in quite some time.
Whether rap fans like it or not, the buzz for Pop Rap is at an all time high. People love to listen to party music and they love hearing/looking at things that can be made into memes, and Drake is so good at doing both of those things that whatever he’s released will undoubtedly gain more exposure.
Back to Back was getting played on my college’s campus eight or nine months after its initial release because of its crossover appeal and one liners. If Drake were to release a diss record right now, it’s almost guaranteed that regardless of quality we’d hear it nonstop because of the hype surrounding the beef and Drake’s star power. It’s nearly an impossible combination to beat.
Slim Shady obviously has some clear advantages in this beef as well. It’s a generally accepted fact that Eminem is one of (if not) the top battle-oriented mainstream rappers of all time, and he has a long list of people he has steamrolled on his way to this achievement.
Before breaking into the mainstream scene, Eminem was a notorious underground rap battler, entering freestyle battle contests like the 1997 Rap Olympics and 1997 Scribble Jam (battle events that would become the real life template for 8 Mile).
Eminem placed second at both events, battling (and losing to) battle rap legends Otherwize, Rhymefest, and most notably MC Juice along the way. As impressive as those achievements are, it should be noted that Eminem used written raps, a couple of which ended up on The Slim Shady LP, as crutches to win battles, which is the freestyle rap battle equal to using steroids. To make a long story short, Eminem lost freestyle battles using written raps, he isn’t untouchable.
Since taking rap by storm in 1999; Eminem has mixed it up with the Insane Clown Posse, Britney Spears, Canibus, Everlast of House of Pain, Mariah Carey, Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit, Benzino, Bono, Moby, Evidence, Jermaine Dupri, and Ja Rule. Everyone who’s on this list has one thing in common, none of them were any challenge for Eminem, and Eminem knew it.
Em has never launched a premeditated attack against anybody that posed a threat to beating him, ducking the likes of Royce da 5’9 during their beef in the early 2000s. For all the talk that Eminem is by far the toughest opponent Drake would have ever faced, the same is probably true vice versa.
If this beef ever actually ends up coming to life, I want everyone to disregard a couple of preconceived biases. I want everyone to disregard that Drake is basically a croissant in human form. I want everyone to forget 8 Mile. I want everyone to forget both of their résumés.
The only things I want you to look at are the two rappers, what their abilities are, and the field that they’re playing on. The matchup looks a little more even now, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, we’ll never know who would win the battle. Drake brought out Eminem in a concert in Detroit. Way to kill our dreams Drizzy.